Sen. Marco Rubio will support Rex Tillerson as secretary of State "despite my reservations," reports the AP, backing away from any challenge to the new president. In a Facebook statement Monday, Rubio said he was troubled by Tillerson's refusal to acknowledge that Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes in Syria. "Despite his extensive experience in Russia and his personal relationship with many of its leaders, he claimed he did not have sufficient information to determine whether Putin and his cronies were responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists, and political opponents," Rubio wrote. "He indicated he would support sanctions on Putin for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect US businesses operating in Russia."
But Rubio said a president is entitled to "significant deference" in assembling his Cabinet. The statement came just hours before the Foreign Relations Committee was slated to vote on Tillerson's nomination. Rubio's support virtually assures that the nominee will sail through the committee and win full Senate confirmation. Tillerson got a boost on Sunday after John McCain and Lindsey Graham offered tepid endorsements of the former Exxon Mobil chief. Rubio clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing, bridling at his refusal to label Putin a "war criminal" or condemn human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in strong enough terms. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee's top Democrat, said in a statement Monday he won't vote for Tillerson.